Oncogene 2018 03 12;37(12):1594-1609. Epub 2018 Jan 12.
Division of Molecular Genetics, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Personalized medicine for cancer patients requires a deep understanding of the underlying genetics that drive cancer and the subsequent identification of predictive biomarkers. To discover new genes and pathways contributing to oncogenesis and therapy resistance in HER2+ breast cancer, we performed Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus (MMTV)-induced insertional mutagenesis screens in ErbB2/cNeu-transgenic mouse models. The screens revealed 34 common integration sites (CIS) in mammary tumors of MMTV-infected mice, highlighting loci with multiple independent MMTV integrations in which potential oncogenes are activated, most of which had never been reported as MMTV CIS. The CIS most strongly associated with the ErbB2-transgenic genotype was the locus containing Eras (ES cell-expressed Ras), a constitutively active RAS-family GTPase. We show that upon expression, Eras acts as a potent oncogenic driver through hyperactivation of the PI3K/AKT pathway, in contrast to other RAS proteins that signal primarily via the MAPK/ERK pathway and require upstream activation or activating mutations to induce signaling. We additionally show that ERAS synergistically enhances HER2-induced tumorigenesis and, in this role, can functionally replace ERBB3/HER3 by acting as a more powerful activator of PI3K/AKT signaling. Although previously reported as pseudogene in humans, we observed ERAS RNA and protein expression in a substantial subset of human primary breast carcinomas. Importantly, we show that ERAS induces primary resistance to the widely used HER2-targeting drugs Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and Lapatinib (Tykerb/Tyverb) in vivo, and is involved in acquired resistance via selective upregulation during treatment in vitro, indicating that ERAS may serve as a novel clinical biomarker for PI3K/AKT pathway hyperactivation and HER2-targeted therapy resistance.